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Aberdeen Cinemas: Regent / Odeon
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Aberdeen Cinemas: Regent / Odeon

Historic Photographs
David Oswald
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Aberdeen Cinemas: Regent / Odeon
Historic Photographs
Aberdeen Cinemas: Regent / Odeon
The Regent was opened as the second, companion cinema of Jack Poole, after his transformation of the Palace on Bridge Place that had opened in 1931. The Justice Mills location was selected and the cinema was constructed on the eastern end of the historic Upper Mill. A cinema was able to utilise the sloping nature of the site in the way few other projects could.

Michael Thomson in Silver Screen in the Silver City (1988) states that work progressed on the new cinema at an excellent rate with virtually all material and labour coming from local sources. The sparkling Rubislaw granite frontage was the work of masons Edgar Gauld of Gilcomston Terrace. Wood for the joinery work came from Sweden and Finland.

The Regent was Aberdeen's first all-new cinema since the Torry Picture House a decade before. It was also the first cinema designed by Thomas Scott Sutherland, who had previously been a designer of, and dealer in, houses, notably the granite bungalows of the Broomhill estate.

The impressive new cinema opened on Saturday 27th February 1932, to an audience mostly of guests, with the main feature being a melodrama called Over the Hill. Reporting on the opening, the Evening Express wrote the following:

"Even though Aberdeen has many magnificent edifices, there is nothing quite so distinctive as the modern design of the front of the new Regent. Fine use has been made of straight lines and curves placed in sharp contrast, and the face that looks through the entrance to Justice Mill Lane on Holburn Street has an imposing dignity about it and yet an elusive gaiety in its composition. It is built of grey granite decorated with bands of red terracotta, and a polished black granite base."

The frontage was floodlit by night and outlined by Aberdeen's neon display. Above the gantry was the large, neon "Regent" sign which made the cinema a beacon at night. The Regent and the Palace were then advertised as "Aberdeen's Super Two".

The Regent's manager John K. Stafford Poole, son of Jack Poole, was aged only 21 when the Regent opened and his innovative promotion and displays became a signature of the cinema. The younger Poole regularly invited the Gordon Highlanders to screenings and in return they would afterwards march, pipes a-skirl, through the cinema and along Union Street back to their barracks.

The Regent proved hugely popular and was soon out-performing the Palace. The success of Poole's Regent prompted Aberdeen Picture Palaces to undertake the creation of their own super-cinema, the Capitol, which would open in 1933. The same year also saw the release of King Kong and the publicity stunt of a human dressed as an ape rampaging on the frontage of the Regent.

On 16th July 1936 it was announced that another southern company called County Cinemas had acquired all the Poole picture houses, those in Devonport, Derby and Plymouth, as well as the Palace and Regent in Aberdeen. In 1939 County Cinemas merged with the larger Odeon chain. In July 1940 the "Regent" sign came down to be replaced with one that read "Odeon". As part of this powerful national circuit, the cinema could rival any in Aberdeen for showing major features.

[Information primarily sourced from Silver Screen in the Silver City (1988) by Michael Thomson]
Justice Mill Lane
Aberdeen Local Studies
"There was a Mickey Mouse Club at the Odeon on a Saturday morning."

"Children could take jam jars to get into the cinema - you got 1d a jar, you needed 4 to get in."

"Smoking was allowed in cinemas - when you went in, there was just a cloud of smoke. Children bought cinnamon sticks and pretended they were cigarettes."

(Memories of cinema going from the Torry Reminiscence Group.)
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